Knock It Off With the Protein Powder!

Don't worry, I'm not going to repeat myself here;-) The first article I wrote in this forum was about protein consumption, and I know many of you read it. This is different.

Protein powder really freaks me out, guys. Stick with me here, I have good reasons to feel this way. However, I want to make it clear that my "feeling" about protein powders is just that: a feeling. It's a feeling based on information and science-based knowledge, but I have NOT conducted studies and cannot find anyone who really has. The only studies relating to protein powder specifically are all short-term and primarily funded by supplement companies - so I don't want to factor those results, whether positive or negative.

Here's what leads to me really being hesitant about the use of ANY protein powder at all plant-based or not:

1 - It's an isolate. Isolates of other nutrients have led to catastrophic results in the past (like vitamin A), and continue to mess with our systems in the form of iron and vitamin D supplements today. While the safety of supplements is often debated and there are valid points on both sides, there are 2 definite takeaways that most experts would agree upon: 1 - Supplements should really only be used if one is deficient in a nutrient and lifestyle changes are either taking too long or are not creating the desired result in an individual, and 2 - whether an expert thinks a supplement is safe or not, any expert with integrity will agree that it's best to get your nutrients from whole foods.

2 - If we are to supplement only when deficient, then no one in a developed nation needs protein powder, since protein deficiency basically only exists alongside calorie deficiency.

3 - Elevated protein levels are dangerous. We never hear about this, but it's absolutely true. Maintaining a protein intake that is excessive over a short or long period of time leads to kidney damage and/or kidney stones, liver problems, excess fat gain, contributes to damage of the lining of artery walls, leads to plaque build-up in arteries, diminished bone density, and many other health problems. For optimal health, the human body only requires 8-15% of daily calories to be protein in order to thrive. Most humans in developed countries are already consuming much more than that, even without powders, and even if they abstain from animal products.

4 - I'm aware that protein powder is a huge thing in the world of Body Building. This may be due to results, may be due to athletes being sponsored by supplement companies, may be a combination. However, Body Builders do NOT generally train with longevity in mind. They have a specific aesthetic goal and are pushing their bodies to meet that goal, even if that means compromising long-term health. In fact, many pro Body Builders meet an early death due to diet-related causes. One thing to remember here? MOST OF US ARE NOT BODY BUILDERS. MOST ATHLETES ARE NOT EVEN BODY BUILDERS. SO STOP TAKING CUES FROM THEIR TRAINING METHODS, AS THEY ARE LIKELY NOT RELEVANT TO YOUR GOALS.

5 - The whole "soy scare" thing came about mostly due to protein powder! Seriously, for hundreds of years, millions of humans in Asia have eaten a diet high in whole soy foods. For generations, cancer in general was practically non-existent in that part of the world. Only recently, as they've adopted more of a Western influence in their diet, have cancer rates gone up. That notorious study that suggested that hormone levels were altered by soy consumption and therefore cancer risk was increased? Remember that? They used extremely high levels of soy protein isolate, and it likely was GMO/non-organic (I have not been able to find out for certain whether it was GMO or not). So, one study outweighs generations of humans consuming soy foods safely? Ridiculous. **Yes, soy protein isolate, and likely GMO soy, is a potential problem and is present in many processed foods. It is also used as feed for the non-human animals raised for food, and can be passed on when humans eat their flesh. Soy isolate and non-organic/GMO soy should be greatly reduced/eliminated from the human diet.**

6 - Casein and whey isolates have been demonstrated, multiple times over, for several decades now, to be powerful cancer promoters. They were shown to be even more powerful cancer promoters than cigarettes. These findings initially came to light through cancer research, not specifically diet research, as isolated casein is the most common protein used for scientific studies. For more info, please check out The China Study or the documentary Forks Over Knives for additional details.

Conclusion?? If you're a Body Builder, I can't really comment since I'm not of that world...but I hope that you will keep an eye toward living a long and vibrant life while training toward your short-term goals. For us Functional Strength Athletes (like myself), for Endurance Athletes, and for those simply seeking a life of health, I hope that you'll stay away from the protein powders...just to err on the side of safety (again, this is my OPINION, not a study). If you really feel you need a boost, try hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, dark leafy greens (kale and spinach are 45% protein), lentils, nuts, and beans so that you not only get an abundance of protein, but also an abundance of fiber (a nutrient in which most humans are deficient), antioxidants, complex carbs, healthy fat, and a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Oh, and they taste way better, too!

Take Care!

-Jill C.